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embodying understanding (was: Dealing with lots of chunks of highlyinterrelated data?)

On 06/11/2016 07:22 AM, Costello, Roger L. wrote:
I found this statement by Eliot to be particularly profound:

** Understanding can be embodied in code. **

Me, too.

Many thinkers, including some whose thoughts have survived for millennia, have wondered about how to interchange understanding.

Plato evidently thought that understanding can come from observing the ways in which ideas interact with each other.  His "dialogues" are dramas in which ideas play roles.  He even goes so far as to use some of the human characters as surrogates for such notions as love.

In Topic Mapping, some of us have tried to face up to the problem of interchanging ("disclosing") the heuristics whereby an author of a topic map has drawn conclusions as to the identities of the subjects (of conversation) the author perceives to arise in some corpus.  In theory, if such heuristics can be disclosed, then both the topic map and its heuristics can be exploited and re-exploited forever, in an unimaginable number and variety of contexts.

Having wrestled with the problem In practice, I think that such disclosures, and the media in which they are made, turn out to be works of art.  I see source codes as instances of rhetorics, and each rhetoric (computer language) as the product of a kind of "school", like such schools of artistic expression as the Florentine Camerata, which invented what we know today as "opera", or the various schools of oil painting that have appeared since the Renaissance began.  Such a school always embodies some guiding artistic vision and enjoys the visionary leadership of one or more unusual individuals.  (For example, Guido von Rossum springs to mind; he's the Benevolent Dictator of Python.)

Back to Eliot's remark.  I think understanding can be embodied in code because *when in operation*, such code can be observed to do the right things -- to make the right distinctions and decisions -- in service of some goal.  An instance of code is like a written drama which, when produced, comes to life as an observable story.  The audience absorbs the story, and that absorption constitutes a transfer of understanding. 

Well, it's a sort of a transfer of understanding, anyway.  It's a pretty sloppy process.  Precision and predictability are unattainable, but I think worth striving for. 

On the bright side, if we have enough imagination and patience, at least some of us can absorb understandings just by reading the script.  Unfortunately, it's prerequisite to "get" the rhetoric, and some of us just don't "get" opera, or, for that matter, Lisp.  In other words, one must already be vulnerable to whatever the rhetoric is.

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